Another year goes by and with Christmas right around the corner, critics everywhere are busy working on their top-favorite movies of 2021 lists. I’ve always been personally careful with those kinds of rankings, as I normally enjoy many of the things I watch throughout any specific year, and sometimes I find the process of choosing favorites a bit counterproductive.
Nevertheless, after taking my daughter to watch ENCANTO, Walt Disney Animation latest release and 60th feature film, I’m just going to break my own rules and straight up say that it was the best movie I’ve watched all year long.
Yes, I am aware that’s a darn big statement to make, but one I gladly stand behind. ENCANTO is a top-tier Disney animated movie, with a very poignant message about family, love, heritage and sacrifice that is sure to not only resonate with its audience, but that will also stick with you for days to come.
But what is ENCANTO?
Directed by the screenplay writer responsible for Moana, Jared Bush, and Byron Howard, who also directed some of Disney’s most recent animations such as Tangled and Zootopia, ENCANTO is a simple but powerful story about what makes us unique, and what it means to be a family and community.
Richly inspired by Colombian culture, ENCANTO starts by introducing us to Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz), a vivacious young woman and only member of the Madrigal family who mysteriously was not blessed with a magical gift, an unfortunate event that frequently puts her at odds with her grandma and matriarch of the family, abuela Alma Madrigal (María Cecilia Botero).
The Madrigals have great joy living in their enchanted home, a sentient house kindly nicknamed “Casita”, and in using their talents to help the people of their community. One evening, however, during a large gathering to celebrate the newest member of the family to receive his gift, Mirabel witnesses a very eerie vision that threatens to disturb the peace not only for her loved ones but also for their whole community.
The Voice Cast
ENCANTO fully embraces its Latinidad with an entirely Hispanic cast. Stephanie Beatriz, who over the past few years has received a lot of praise for her performance as Detective Rosa Diaz on the comedic show Brooklyn Nine-Nine, was the perfect choice as the voice for Mirabel. Her voice work fully showcases Mirabel’s happy and lively attitude.
Some other note-worthy performances include the collaborative work of María Cecilia Botero and Olga Merediz, as the main and singing voice of abuela Alma Madrigal, respectively, and John Leguizamo as the mysterious Bruno.
What Makes ENCANTO So Good?
Apart from everything that normally makes most Disney animations unforgettable, and the always catchy original songs created by Broadway darling and Pulitzer Prize-winner, Lin-Manuel Miranda, one of the things I enjoyed the most about ENCANTO was its depiction of Latin-American culture. Of course, the movie is not a perfect representation of every aspect of it, but the inspiration behind it led to obvious storytelling elements without which the movie could not exist.
ENCANTO, much like In The Heights and Vivo, two of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s projects that debuted this year, displays a conscious intention to not only celebrate the best parts of the culture I grew up with, but it doesn’t shy away from more serious topics, such as sacrifice, the horrors and consequences of war, and immigration.
The script also gives ample opportunity for Mirabel and the many members of her family to be developed, and we get a good understanding of what empowers and motivates them, as they sing about their joys and pain.
And speaking about music, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” is already a classic. I haven’t been able to stop humming it ever since I watched the movie. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s aptitude to continuously build on past work is one of his best assets, a talent on full display throughout the movie and the clear reason he has become such a prominent creator for Disney.
ENCANTO should also receive some praise for bringing one of the best representation of Latin characters with Black heritage. Afro-Latinx characters were front and center throughout many parts of the movie, including musical numbers. That’s an important step to represent our community and it’s diverse background.
A Celebration for The Whole Family
Disney’s ENCANTO is a beautiful movie, created by some of the most talented names in animation, and with a strong voice cast led by the amazing Stephanie Beatriz. ENCANTO also shamelessly embraces elements of the Latin-American culture, becoming a true example of a movie made by and for people of Latin-American descent, but not exclusive to it.
I’m one hundred percent sure anyone comfortable enough to watch it in theaters will have an amazing time, but for those of you who would rather wait for the movie to hit Disney+, you do not have to wait much longer. ENCANTO will be available for streaming at no additional costs on December 24.